Central Asia geopolitical watch team : Julie Eifler-Bolander, Sophie Marc, Tristan Jarraud, Alexandre Brière
10/30/2022 : Visit of the Chairman of the State Great Khural of Mongolia to the Republic of Korea – Julie Eifler-Bolander –
On the 30th of October, the working visit of the Chairman of the State Great Khural (Parliament) of Mongolia to the Republic of Korea came to an end. His official press service expressed on Twitter his satisfaction with relaxing visa requirements and entering into an economic partnership.
Both countries can indeed benefit from this : Mongolia has abundant natural resources to trade (copper, gold, uranium, coal), and Korea stands out for its advanced technologies and its industrial development. During this visit, the Chairman of the State Great Khural also attended the Transpacific Stability Dialogue, during which the country’s vulnerability to climate change was discussed, as reported by the newspaper Unen. Besides, the environment is an important feature of the cooperation with the Republic of Korea. This partnership is a part of the Mongolian “third neighbour policy”, a concept approved in 2011 by the Great Khural, in order to expand Mongolia’s relations with countries other than its two neighbours, China and the Russian Federation. This aims at reducing these two powers’ influence and building partnerships with “the United States, Japan, the European Union, India, the Republic of Korea, and Turkey”, as addressed in the resolution. In this context, Mongolia multiplied in recent days official meetings with the United States and Japan, two other important “third neighbours” : tripartite meeting, welcome of the new ambassador of the United States and visit of the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. These events were shared on Twitter and in Mongolian newspapers (News.mn, Chuhal).
10/31/2022 : Operationalization of the new highway connecting the Chinese border with the Russian border through Mongolia – Julie Eifler-Bolander –
On the 31st of October, the new highway connecting the Chinese border with the Russian border through Mongolia was put into full operation, as announced by the Ministry of Road and Transport Development on Twitter.
This road is the first transit corridor between “Asia and Europe”, according to the Secretary of State of this Ministry. Funded by Mongolia, a loan from the Chinese government and subsidies from the Asian Development Bank, according to the Ministry’s official website, this project is part of the Mongolian “New Revival Policy” and the revitalization of the “road ports”, which are border checkpoints with its two neighbours. These are mostly landlocked in the West region. This highway, which is 4500 km long, including 745 km in Mongolia, connects major cities in Central Asia like Ürümqi and Novosibirsk. According to the Mongolian newspaper Chuhal, this would allow products’ export and traffic at a larger scale in the region, and it could support regional integration and trade. These were indeed the words of the Prime Minister L. Oyun-Erdene during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s meeting on the 1st of November, as reported by the newspaper Sonin : Mongolia, which has been an observer state since 2004, mentioned the common economic interests of the countries in the region. A new highway project, further East, and also connecting China, Mongolia and Russia was also discussed, according to the media Montsame and the Mongolian official press service. Even though Mongolia focuses on development projects that include its two neighbours, it is to be noticed that the country also tries in recent days to diversify its partnerships, especially thanks to her “Third Neighbour Policy”, whether it is with the Republic of Korea, Japan or the United-States.
10/31/2022 : Tajikistan and Uzbekistan both deny exporting Iranian-designed drones to Russia in the Ukraine war – Sophie Marc –
On 27 October, according to The Diplomat, during a discussion with Russian-born businessman Leonid Nevzlin, Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon accused Uzbekistan of producing Iranian-designed drones. These drones were then exported to Russia for use on Ukrainian soil. On 28 October, the journalist admitted that he had confused two countries: Iran has a drone production plant in Tajikistan and not in Uzbekistan.
Both countries denied this accusation: “We emphasise that the Republic of Tajikistan does not export military equipment to third countries,” the Tajik foreign ministry announced in a statement on 30 October. The Uzbek government for its part urged Ukraine “to take appropriate measures to prevent the media from spreading false accusations“.
In fact, according to Eurasianet, Iranian drones are allegedly used by Russia to target civilians in Ukraine, which the Russian government categorically denies. The unproven allegation that Iranian-designed drones used by Russia are produced in Tajikistan is based on the fact that the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, Major-General Mohammad Bagheri, visited Dushanbe in May to attend the inauguration of an Iranian drone production plant. The country is also one of 22 countries that have officially requested to buy Iranian-designed military drones.
11/03/2022: Agreements between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan within the framework of the process of completing the delimitation of borders – Alexandre Brière –
On the 3rd of November, the Foreign Ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Jeenbek Kulubayev, and of Uzbekistan, Vladimir Norov, met in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) to sign several agreements which fall under the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border negotiations. In addition, the signing of these agreements is also related to the joint management of water resources in the Kempir-Abad reservoir, in the Andijan region. These negotiations are part of the preparation for the next state visit of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Kyrgyzstan. The two ministers held extensive talks with a view to strengthening trade relations, economic cooperation and the implementation of major investment projects between the two countries. Issues of implementing major joint infrastructure and energy projects, including the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, were also discussed at the meeting. Earlier, about 20 individuals were arrested in Kyrgyzstan after protesting against the new delimitation of the water reservoir, part of which was transferred to the Uzbek republic. This type of arrest was motivated by the local authorities on suspicion of organizing a riot. In addition, the question of cross-border rivers is a recurring source of geostrategic tension in Central Asia, but also of social and political tensions linked both to its sharing and to competing uses.
11/03/2022: Deadly explosion in a coal mine in the Oblys of Karaganda, industrial region of Kazakhstan – Alexandre Brière –
On the 3rd of November, in Shakhtinsk, in the Karaganda region, an industrial center of Kazakhstan rich in raw materials, a methane explosion took place in the Lenin mine belonging to the ArcelorMittal group, the second largest steel producer in the world. According to local sources, the mining accident caused at least 5 deaths, 4 injuries and caused the evacuation of a hundred mine employees. An investigation has been opened by the governmental authorities for violation of safety rules in mining and construction work. Kazakhstan, the leading economy in Central Asia, is rich in oil and gas, but also in uranium, manganese, iron, chromium and coal. Consequently, this type of accident is recurrent in the country due to the failure and lack of maintenance of industrial installations, as well as the lack of resources in terms of risk management and emergency intervention for employees working in these mines. In addition, the Kazakh Government should take more drastic measures against companies that do not comply with preventive security measures.
11/04/2022: The Central Bank of Kazakhstan obtains a reduction in bank card fees-Tristan Jarraud –
On November 3, 2022, the Central Bank of Kazakhstan managed to conclude an agreement with Visa, Mastercard and UnionPay, with the aim of reducing the fees for using bank cards. This reduction will be done gradually, announced the Central Bank. The so-called normal cards that are currently subject to fees of 2.40% will be reduced to 1.80% and then 1.20%. For the so-called premium sector, the same reductions will apply. For the superior sector, which is currently subject to fees of up to 2.45%, they will initially be reduced to 2% and then 1.40%.
At the same time, this agreement will allow an economic advance for the country. Indeed, it will democratise the use of bank cards and thus reduce the so-called shadow economy. A large part of the transactions are done in the form of cash and the use of cards will allow the State to really know the vitality of its economy.